“Greece, which is also fast-tracking state property sales, is set to overtake Finland as the continent’s largest gold producer within four years, as regulators in Athens sign off on mines kept on hold for more than a decade by red tape and environmental rules.”
From an article in the Independent, October 15. It was all about investment opportunities, about the mining potential of Greece, about the employment it would bring to the region, about the money the government would make so that it could pay off its debts. It’s a long piece, only around the end it notes that “Environmentalism and local opposition remain the biggest obstacle to gold mining in Greece,” and that “local villagers and mining protesters from Thessaloniki clashed with police at the Skouries site last month, according to local press reports.”
This month, protesters clashed again at the site. On the Real Democracy Greece blog I found a witness account of what happened. I post some excerpts, read the original in Greek and English here. This is a story about greed in its purest and most visceral form, and the way it is narrated makes it also irresistably Homeric…
“Yesterday’s demonstration was maybe the biggest regarding the mines and for sure one of the biggest in the Chalkidiki region. More than 2000 people coming from the surrounding area but also from even more far away like Thesaloniki, Kilkis, Thrace gathered in Ieriso, where the car cortege started its course towards Skouries. It was the first time that young people joined our struggle coming from villages apart from Ierisso (where it is considered the ‘heart’ of our movement). People from M. Panagia, Ammouliani, Ouranoupoli, Nea Roda, Metaggitsi, Gomati, Ormylia, N. Moudania, Polygiros, Plana, even from the villages that have workers at the gold mines (Stratoniki, Stageira, Paleochori) ignored the propaganda and joined hands.
The road to Skouries was not blocked by the riot police (as they did several times in the past) but we were informed that about 4 squads were waiting for us in the village. We kept walking the next 8 kms passing through the beautiful forest that they plan to destroy. A small group of 200 remained in Hontro Dentro in order to prevent riot police to coming from behind. Recalling today the brutality of the police, this plan sounds naïve…
When we finally arrived in the village, a wall of policemen was blocking the public road in front of the company’s premises. Behind these policemen they were standing riot policemen and behind them company officials and ’secret’ policemen. In order to keep the atmosphere calm, women stood in front and we all asked to let us pass. They denied completely. Standing in front of their shields we shouted slogans and tried to start a discussion with the policemen that showed no reaction or expression.
’We are your wives, your mothers, your sisters and we are protecting our land. We are fighting for our children and our future. Why do you hit us? What are you gonna say to your own kids when they ask you?’
It was getting dark when the police decided to get rid of us. The attack was ordered without any previous assault or provocation from our side. They started throwing a huge number of teargases, screaming ‘bitches’ ‘fagots’ chasing and beat the ones left behind. I could not run so I entered the woods. I was lying down inside a cloud of teargases with riot policemen walking around me. As soon as I managed to escape from them, I joined small group of demonstrators who were ready to return back with a small truck. There was also a young boy badly beaten in the ribbons.
This was the last image that my camera captured. What followed is hard to describe… Like mad dogs they started attacking everyone and throwing tons of teargases. Women were pulled by their hair, people were beaten while they were trying to enter their own cars and whoever was lying down were trampled violently. The cars could not move fast due to the big number of demonstrators and the traffic jam. Many drivers collided. The riot police was running among the cars, breaking glasses, opening the doors furious and kicking everyone out. One of them saw me wearing a surgery mask and tried to open my door calling me ‘bitch’.
I saw with my own eyes a policeman breaking a glass and throwing a teargas INSIDE THE CAR! The interior of the car turned black from the smoke and the driver was thrown out and beaten. They did the same in many cars.
Without any doubts I claim that the police order was ‘SMASH THEM SO THEY WILL NOT RETURN TO THE MOUNTAIN’. They didn’t want just to disperse the mobilization (this is anyway easy for them with the plastic bullets and the teargases while we were not prepared). Their attack (as we were departing from the place and we were no harm to them) is an organized crime (there is no other way for me to describe it) and I am sure that if they had guns they would have used them.”
The Independent article ends like this:
“Eldorado’s Moure is betting more than $3 billion that objectors to expanding gold exploration in Greece will be swayed. The company intends to invest about $1 billion in the next five years. ‘I think people realize we are part of the solution, that part of the economic recovery will be due to mining,’ said Moure. ‘I’m convinced that people who oppose our projects will come to realize that mining can be a positive force for change.'”
(This video is from a similar protest in Romania)